Watching and reading the various 9/11 remembrances this year, I get the sense that a lot of Americans are ready to move on but are hesitant for fear of seeming either callous or negligently complacent about the country’s security. But it’s past time to move on.
The enormity of the 9/11 mass murders will always stay with those of us old enough to remember. Terrorist acts are perhaps by definition political, in some broad sense of ‘political’. So the terrible events of 9/11 have always been politicized. But 9/11 has been politicized in another way. The United States’ government reacted to to 9/11 and that reaction has been, to my mind, an enormous disaster. Yet those responsible for this disaster have been successful in hiding behind the shock of the crumbling towers, as if support for their dangerous and deadly policies is inexorably implied by feeling deeply the full weight of 9/11’s tragedy. Those most insistent that we “never forget” 9/11 are those who need our continuing collective complicity in the erosion of our civil liberties, in the weakening of the rule of law, in the unjustified invasion of unrelated foreign countries and the murder of their people, in the policy of state-sanctioned torture. The difficulty many Americans have in separating remembrance of an act of terror from an endorsement of the war on terror may turn out be George W. Bush’s great legacy.
The United States was a better place on September 10th, 2001. We should not forget what happened the next day. Nor should we forget the wrongs the United States has subsequently done. That September 10th is long gone. But there will always be another one. Whether we will live in a 9/10 or a 9/11 world is a choice we have, and it is a choice we continue to make.